3.4 Flood to drought in South Dakota: communicating the challenges of climate variability

Tuesday, 8 January 2013: 2:15 PM
Room 15 (Austin Convention Center)
Laura M. Edwards, South Dakota State University, Aberdeen, SD; and D. P. Todey

Within a period of less than a year, a large area of South Dakota went from “flood of record” in the Missouri River basin to extreme drought conditions. This high degree of variability in climatic conditions presented a challenge for climatologists to describe and communicate to the public in order to prepare them for planning purposes, primarily those who are involved in agriculture. This rapid change from extreme wet to extreme dry has also been an opportunity for South Dakota State University (SDSU) climatologists to be engaged with the natural resources and agricultural communities in the state. As the long-term high flows on the Missouri River were waning in late 2011, a drought was developing. Recovery efforts and post-flood discussions on climate variability and change were occurring as precipitation deficits grew in the winter of 2011-12. The rapid transition from wet to dry conditions was a challenge for extension and outreach personnel amidst a large-scale reorganization within SDSU, but presented an opportunity to address climate variability as it affects agriculture and natural resources. Examples of activities will presented as a model for individual and institutional engagement in high impact climate events, including newly forged partnerships, media relations, public meetings, webinars, and online resource development.
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